AL-MALIK AL-NASIR AND HIS WAZIR.



There was given to Abú Ámir bin Marwán, [FN#177] a boy of the Christians, than whom never fell eyes on a handsomer. Al-Nasir the conquering Soldan saw him and said to Abu Amir, who was his Wazir, "Whence cometh this boy?" Replied he, "From Allah;" whereupon the other, "Wilt thou terrify us with stars and make us prisoner with moons?" Abu Amir excused himself to him and preparing a present, sent it to him with the boy, to whom he said, "Be thou part of the gift: were it not of necessity, my soul had not consented to give thee away." And he wrote with him these two couplets,

"My lord, this full moon takes in Heaven of thee new birth; * Nor can deny we Heaven excelleth humble earth:
Thee with my soul I please and oh! the pleasant case! * No man e'er saw I who to give his soul prefer'th."
The thing pleased Al-Nasir and he requited him with much treasure and the Minister became high in favour with him. After this, there was presented to the Wazir a slave girl, one of the loveliest women in the world, and he feared lest this should come to the King's ears and he desire her, and the like should happen as with the boy. So he made up a present still costlier than the first and sent it with her to the King,-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Six Hundred and Ninety-eighth Night,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir Abu Amir, when presented with the beautiful slave girl, feared lest it come to the Conquering King's ears and that the like should happen as with the boy, so he made up a present still costlier than the first and sent it with her to his master, accompanying it with these couplets,

"My lord, this be the Sun, the Moon thou hadst before; * So the two greater lights now in thy Heaven unite:
Conjunction promising to me prosperity, * And Kausar draught to thee and Eden's long delight.
Earth shows no charms, by Allah, ranking as their third, * Nor King who secondeth our Conquering King in might."

Wherefore his credit redoubled with al-Nasir; but, after a while, one of his enemies maligned him to the King, alleging that there still lurked in him a hot lust for the boy and that he ceased not to desire him, whenever the cool northern breezes moved him, and to gnash his teeth for having given him away. Cried the King, "Wag not thou thy tongue at him, or I will shear off thy head." However, he wrote Abu Amir a letter, as from the boy. to the following effect: "O my lord, thou knowest that thou wast all and one to me and that I never ceased from delight with thee. Albeit I am with the Sultan, yet would I choose rather solitude with thee, but that I fear the King's majesty: wherefore devise thou to demand me of him." This letter he sent to Abu Amir by a little foot page, whom he enjoined to say, "This is from such an one: the King never speaketh to him." When the Wazir read the letter and heard the cheating message, he noted the poison draught [FN#178] and wrote on the back of the note these couplets,

"Shall man experience-lectured ever care * Fool-like to thrust his head in lion's lair?
I'm none of those whose wits to love succumb * Nor witless of the snares my foes prepare:
Wert thou my sprite, I'd give thee loyally; * Shall sprite, from body sundered, backwards fare?"

When al-Nasir knew of this answer, he marvelled at the Wazir's quickness of wit and would never again lend ear to aught of insinuations against him. Then said he to him, "How didst thou escape falling into the net?" And he replied, "Because my reason is unentangled in the toils of passion." And they also tell a tale of